|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 73, Part I, 12 April 1996
This is Part I of the Open Media Research Institute's Daily Digest. Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of the Daily Digest, and other information about OMRI, are available through OMRI's WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/Index.html ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^TODAY'S TOP STORY^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ YELTSIN SEEKS SUPPORT OF MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. President Boris Yeltsin continued to use the benefits of incumbency by promising 2 trillion rubles ($400 million) of funding for defense plants beyond what is in the budget, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported 11 April. Yeltsin declared that for the first time since the beginning of the reforms, the government had approved a schedule of financing for defense orders and that he would personally monitor its implementation. He made the announcement during a visit to Energomash, Russia's premier rocket engine factory which has recently fallen on hard times. In response, an unidentified group of leaders representing the "largest military enterprises" announced that they would back Yeltsin since a Communist victory would be "dangerous" for the high-tech industry, ITAR-TASS reported. -- Robert Orttung ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ RUSSIA ZYUGANOV PROMISES TO BACK CHURCH. Communist presidential candidate Gennadii Zyuganov, campaigning in Lipetsk as the country prepares for Orthodox Easter, said that he would support and defend religion in Russia if elected president, ITAR-TASS reported. However, he denounced "overseas priests" who preach on Moscow television screens every Sunday and try to introduce foreign elements to Russia's culture. He said that he regularly visits Russian Orthodox churches and meets with church figures. Zyuganov's writings praise Stalin for "understanding" the importance of the church during World War II. -- Robert Orttung ZHIRINOVSKY SETS UP CHILDREN'S LEAGUE. In an attempt to boost his campaign for the presidency, Vladimir Zhirinovsky held a press conference on 11 April to announce the creation of a youth branch of his ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Russian and Western agencies reported. Zhirinovsky's Young Falcons, as the league, modelled on the defunct communist pioneers, is to be known, were dressed in blue uniforms, black neckties bearing the name of the LDPR in gold letters, and Zhirinovsky's trademark black peaked caps. Zhirinovsky denied that he intends to use the children for political purposes, but Reuters quoted one of his aides as saying that they would take part in rallies and hand out literature "supporting Vladimir Volfovich." -- Penny Morvant SHAIMIEV, NAZARBAYEV, READY TO NEGOTIATE WITH DUDAEV. The presidents of Tatarstan and Kazakhstan, Mintimer Shaimiev and Nursultan Nazarbayev, have been officially named as mediators between the Russian leadership and Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudaev, Russian Public TV (ORT) reported on 11 April. Russian Nationalities Minister Vyacheslav Mikhailov told Radio Mayak that one of Shaimiev's representatives is already in contact with Dudaev, and Ingush Vice President Boris Agapov predicted that a telephone conversation between the two presidents could take place in the next few days. Dudaev's press secretary Movladi Udugov, however, told Ekho Moskvy that fighting in Chechnya had intensified, which he interpreted as an attempt to sabotage the peace talks. Meanwhile, the commander of the Russian Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya, General Anatolii Shkirko, said Dudaev's men had a choice between surrendering or being wiped out. -- Liz Fuller FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN SUPPORTS FEDERATION. The parliament's upper house chairman, Yegor Stroev, told OMRI on 12 April that he sees no alternative to Russia's federative structure. He added, however, that in practice Russia is often run as a unitary state. Stroev dismissed the idea of abolishing all of the country's ethnic republics and dividing the country into equal districts. On the other hand, he also rejected the idea of giving a separate district to every single one of the country's 150 distinct ethnic groups. Stroev also denounced the federal government's current practice of signing separate power-sharing agreements with each of Russia's federation subjects, arguing that such agreements cause political, economic, and social inequality among the regions. He added that although 12 federation subjects have already signed such agreements, 80% of Russia's federation subjects are against them. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow TsIK SATISFIED WITH TATAR PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The Central Electoral Commission (TsIK) is satisfied that the 24 March presidential election in Tatarstan--in which President Mintimer Shaimiev ran unopposed--took place in accordance with constitutional law. TsIK spokesman Parmen Shenshin told OMRI on 12 April that although the Russian constitution prohibits candidates from running unopposed, the Tatar constitution does not include such a restriction. -- Anna Paretskaya in Moscow YELTSIN: BORDER DEMARCATION CONTINUES. President Yeltsin on 11 April categorically refuted Primorsk Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko's claims that the president had suspended the demarcation of a disputed section of the Russo-Chinese border, Russian and Western agencies reported (see OMRI Daily Digest, 11 April 1996). Yeltsin, citing his upcoming 24-26 April visit to Beijing, claimed that he had actually signed a decree aimed at speeding up the demarcation of the border line. Reuters reported that Yeltsin made no attempt to hide his visible anger with Nazdratenko, whose statement he termed "incomprehensible." The Primorsk governor is notorious for pandering to anti-Chinese sentiment in his home region, where he was re-elected in December. -- Scott Parrish RUSSIA REFUSES TO SIGN CAIRO TREATY. Troubled by reservations that the U.S. attached to the Pelinda Treaty, which makes Africa a nuclear-free zone, Russia refused to sign the agreement in Cairo on 11 April, international media reported. The U.S. excluded the British-administered Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, where it has a military base, from the agreement. A Russian diplomat told AFP that Russia had viewed Diego Garcia as covered by the treaty, and was not warned about the U.S. reservation. He said Russia will sign the agreement after formulating its own reservations. AFP noted that the U.S. had also initially balked at the agreement, fearing that it would prevent nuclear retaliation against Libya if it uses chemical weapons. A White House spokesman later announced however, that Washington does not view the treaty as restricting such a response if Tripoli uses "weapons of mass destruction." -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-YUGOSLAV ENERGY DEAL. Russian Minister of Foreign Trade Oleg Davydov and rump Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Shainovic signed an energy deal in Moscow under which Russia will export 2.5 million metric tons of oil and 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas to rump Yugoslavia annually, AFP reported on 11 April. The fuel will be shipped via existing pipelines, although the agreement also creates a joint venture to expand the pipeline network in rump Yugoslavia, in which the Russian firm Gazprom has a stake. Belgrade will pay for the fuel with unspecified goods, and it will not affect Russia's outstanding Soviet- era debt to that country. -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-BELARUSIAN COMMUNITY EXECUTIVE MEETS. The executive committee of the Russo-Belarusian Community met for the first time in Moscow on 11 April, Russian media reported. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who chairs the commission, opened the session by declaring that the new community could succeed in attracting additional members only if its current two members "synchronized" their economic policies. The committee subsequently issued its first directives, granting citizens of both member states equal rights to education and medical care on the territory of the other. -- Scott Parrish RUSSO-NORTH KOREAN COMMISSION HOLDS "PRODUCTIVE" MEETING. Deputy Prime Minister Vitalii Ignatenko, leading a Russian delegation in Pyongyang, termed the first meeting of the new economic commission "productive and fruitful," saying it addressed the problems of mutual debts and transport payments, ITAR-TASS reported on 12 April. While in Pyongyang, Ignatenko, joined by Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Panov, also met with high-ranking North Korean officials to discuss replacing the 1961 Soviet-North Korean treaty, which expires this September. Russia wants to change the military assistance clauses of the treaty (see OMRI Daily Digest, 8 September 1995). Meanwhile, in Moscow, Foreign and Defense Ministry spokesmen said Russia would continue its military-technical cooperation with North and South Korea, arguing that arms sales to both countries do not jeopardize regional security. -- Scott Parrish HEALTH WORKERS PROTEST. Medical workers in 60 Russian regions held meetings and picketed local government buildings on 11 April to demand the payment of wage arrears, higher wages, and increased spending on health care, ITAR-TASS reported. The deputy chairman of the Union of Health Care Workers, Vladimir Lyalin, said that the 1996 federal budget allocation for health of 4.6 trillion rubles ($948 million) was only a fifth of the sum requested by the Health Ministry. The financial crisis in the health care system has resulted in shortages in medicines and equipment and a deterioration in treatment, contributing to an increase in infectious diseases and mortality rates. -- Penny Morvant POLICE ARREST MISSILE DESIGNER'S MURDERER. Police in Yekaterinburg said on 11 April that they had arrested six people in connection with the murder of leading weapons designer Valentin Smirnov (see OMRI Daily Digest, 21 March 1996). The Sverdlovsk Oblast procurator said Yurii Pinzhenin, head of an enterprise affiliated with Smirnov's design bureau, is suspected of having ordered the killing after Smirnov caught him embezzling money from the enterprise. The arrests provided a boost for law enforcement agencies, which have been heavily criticized in recent years for failing to solve a series of high-profile contract killings. -- Penny Morvant FOREIGN TRADE STILL RISING. The volume of Russia's foreign trade in the first two months of 1996 was $19.5 billion, a 10% increase over the same period last year, Finansovye izvestiya reported on 9 April. Exports went up by 7% (to $12.4 billion), and imports by 14% (to $7.1 billion). Oil, gas, coal, and non-ferrous metals accounted for 61% of exports. Non-CIS countries accounted for 79% of Russia's exports and 62% of imports. Meanwhile, during the visit of First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kadannikov to Rome, an agreement was signed rescheduling Russia's $450 million debt to Italy over the next 15 years. -- Natalia Gurushina GOVERNMENT USING BANKS TO BAIL OUT THE REGIONS. The government has ordered the Finance Ministry to guarantee credits given by the commercial banks Stolichnyi Bank Sberezhenii (SBS), Menatep, and ONEKSIMbank to a number of regional authorities, Kommersant-Daily reported on 11 April. They include a 45 billion ruble ($9 million) SBS construction loan to the Adygeya Republic, Menatep's 35 billion rubles wage credit to Pskov Oblast, and ONEKSIMbank's 40 billion ruble credit to Mordoviya. These bank loans will help plug holes in local budgets without showing up as federal government spending. -- Natalia Gurushina FINANCIAL PROBLEMS MAR 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF SPACE PROGRAM . . . The director of the Russian Space Agency Yurii Koptev said that work on the cargo module of the international space station Alfa is five months behind schedule because of a lack of funds, Russian and Western media reported on 10 April. If the delay is not eliminated by May, Russia risks exclusion from the project. The national space program's funding has fallen to 10% of the 1989 level. In the first quarter of 1996, the industry received only 7% of the 3.3 trillion rubles ($674 million) promised in this year's budget. Russia's revenue from commercial launches ($350 million in 1995) was spent mainly on paying off old debts. -- Natalia Gurushina . . . BUT YELTSIN PROMISES TAX BREAKS. During his visit to the Energomash scientific-industrial complex, President Yeltsin said the government will implement a number of measures to support the space industry, ITAR-TASS and Reuters reported on 11 April. He said a decree will be prepared to exempt companies participating in international space programs from custom duties and taxes. He also announced the establishment of a new space cadet school in St. Petersburg. -- Natalia Gurushina TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA REBELS THWARTED FROM CROSSING TAJIK-AFGHAN BORDER. Five armed men attempting to smuggle drugs from Afghanistan into Tajikistan were shot dead by border guards who seized 159 kg of opium from the smugglers, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 April. Border guards have confiscated about 700 kg of drugs so far this year. -- Bhavna Dave VAN DEN BROEK IN UZBEKISTAN. A delegation led by EU Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov in Tashkent for talks on enhancing trade and economic relations between the EU and Uzbekistan, Uzbek Radio reported on 8 April. Karimov touted Uzbekistan's work in laying "a legal basis for a democratic society," according to an Uzbek Radio report monitored by the BBC. The EU envoy, for his part, allegedly praised the "serious progress" made in ensuring that "human rights were defended and economic reforms carried out" in the country. -- Lowell Bezanis [As of 12:00 CET] Compiled by Victor Gomez ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Copyright (c) 1996 Open Media Research Institute, Inc. All rights reserved. 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